U.S. citizenship provides many rights, but also involves many responsibilities. Thus, the decision to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization is important. In most cases, a person who wants to naturalize must first be a permanent resident. By becoming a U.S. citizen, you gain many rights that permanent residents or others do not have, including the right to vote.
The process of applying for U.S. citizenship is known as naturalization. In order to be eligible for naturalization, you must first meet certain requirements required by U.S. immigration law.
Generally, to be eligible for naturalization you must:
Be age 18 or older; and
Be a permanent resident for a certain amount of time (usually 5 years or 3 years, depending on how you obtained status); and
Be a person of good moral character; and
Have a basic knowledge of U.S. government (this, too, can be excepted due to permanent physical or mental impairment); and
Have a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States; and
Be able to read, write, and speak basic English. There are exceptions to this rule for someone who at the time of filing: - Is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years; or - Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or - Has a permanent physical or mental impairment that makes the individual unable to fulfill these requirements.
When can I apply for naturalization? You may be able to apply for naturalization if you are at least 18 years of age and have been a permanent resident of the United States:
For at least 5 years; or
For at least 3 years during which time you have been, and continue to be, married to and living in a marriage relationship with your U.S. citizen husband or wife; or
Have honorable service in the U.S. military. Certain spouses of U.S. citizens and/or members of the military may be able to file for naturalization sooner than noted above.